Blurbs: Philippine Pageantry 2021, a social commentary

Photo by Church of Christ via Unsplash

There are three popular events in the Philippines that unite or divide Filipinos. These are called the 3Bs: Basketball, Boxing, and Beauty Pageants. I am not a sports fan, so I do not have much to say about the first 2 Bs. The third one, however, I am relatively exposed. It’s something of a religious experience for Filipinos to come together as family and friends in one sitting and watch beauty pageants. We may not excel in a lot of things as a nation, but we surely do well in showcasing physical beauty. It’s gained even more traction in the last decade with the consecutive placements of our delegates in major beauty pageants, most notably in the Miss Universe Pageant. 

Out of boredom, I silently followed the events happening in Miss Universe Philippines (MUPH). From their initial presentation of 100 candidates, the delegates were trimmed to 75, 50, and 30 through online challenges. The final 30 (28 rather, as 2 had to withdraw) continued to the preliminaries. During the coronation night, they were trimmed further to 15, 10, and 5. 3 out of 5 had crowns and 1 of them ultimately competing in the Miss Universe Pageant in December 2021. 

As with any typical Filipino household, I grew up watching beauty pageants and put beauty queens on a pedestal. I had fun following MUPH 2021 and had a lot of favorites in this batch. This group of women are so competitive, anyone could win the crown and compete internationally. I was devastated when my sentimental favorite, Katrina Dimaranan did not win. When I say I was devastated, I mean I cried, felt sad, and empty. I am still in the process of moving on.

I didn’t plan it but following this pageant became sort of a social commentary and observation for me. As I followed the competition, I discovered a lot about the Philippine pageant community, and as I interacted with enthusiasts, have realized a few things: 

It is important to put a show, no matter what – Pandemic or no pandemic, beauty pageant organizations most especially Miss Universe need to stage a show. People need entertainment badly right now. They need a distraction, especially in places where pageants are a big deal. These fans need to place their attention to something beautiful and aspirational, and beauty pageants are the answers. If not, they will start to pay attention to things that matter, like politics, covid-19 response, poverty, climate. People in power won’t want that, right? *wink, wink*

MUPH 2021 Top 5 Queens

“Destiny” is so appealing – For some reason, the concept of destiny is very popular in pageants. “It is the girl’s destiny to win”, they always say. However, having done some growing up over the past decade, I think some real talk needs to be done. I know the concept of destiny is heartwarming, hopeful, and romantic. However except for a few random cases, “Destiny” is just a euphemism for things we did not see or have no control over. Example: You finally have a chance to get your dream job. You applied, got interviewed, passed all the tests. Unfortunately, you did not get the job. As a consolation, you tell yourself that your “destiny” lies in something better. In reality, you didn’t know that the hiring team already had someone in mind to hire. They just needed to interview several people to justify hiring the preferred candidate. I know It’s a hard pill to swallow. That’s why we resort to concepts of “destiny“, “meant to be / not meant to be, etc.” There’s nothing wrong with that. We survive through coping mechanisms. When you have a better view of the situation, you will understand there were certain. factors that affect your situation, or it is simply just not the right fit for you. However, the other side of the coin is true. There can be something better ahead of the delegates even if they do not win. The pageant is simply a platform for them to achieve their goals or further greater causes.

The overall package is a must now, but more importantly, the consistency and energy of the delegates – Similar to the criteria used in assessing job applicants, it’s so important nowadays to be a well-rounded delegate. The delegate doesn’t need to be A++ in all aspects of the competition. However, if she is relatively ok in all areas and she performs consistently, she will come a long way. Most importantly, what energy does the delegate bring out to the crowd? Is she nervous, is she too excited, is she unsure, is she arrogant, is she confident, is she unhappy? A beauty queen is foremost aspirational. If she consistently carries herself with class, dignity, poise, and elegance, she can be The One.

Rabid fans and trolls are real – Yes, these types of people are not just present in political discussions. I have read and encountered some of them in pageant pages too. The same thing with political discussions, these people resort to ad hominem when they can’t justify what they say, or if they have nothing else to say. It’s as if they will score some points if they tell you that you’re ugly. Best to ignore these people. They’ll find you no fun for not responding to their stupid comments.

Halo effect is evidently in pageantry – Halo effect is “the tendency for positive impressions of a person, company, brand or product in one area to positively influence one’s opinion or feelings in other areas.” This cognitive bias is certainly evident in pageantry. This is foremost a battle of beauty. Hence all physical and visible aspects of a delegate are the ones seen and highlighted by fans most of the time. They become mesmerized and attached to these superficial attributes that they think their bets can do no wrong. If the delegates do not make it to the top, or if there are accusations thrown at them, fans will not see these faults and defend their delegates to the ends of the earth. Pride is at work; It is certainly hard for them to accept that they were wrong in believing that their bets could not win. 

Social Media makes fans underestimate delegates more  – In MUPH 2021, there were a lot of frontrunners and popular favorites that made the competition tight. The halo effect was certainly at play with the help of social media. Because fans don’t learn easily, once again, they didn’t notice that a silent killer was around the corner, quietly doing her part, performing when it mattered, and ultimately won the crown and the privilege of competing on an international stage. That is the strength of an underdog. The moral of the story, do not discount anyone, do not believe hot picks or predictions, the media tours, or the various photoshoots. When delegates reach the stage, they can only rely on their skills and the energy they give out. That’s what the panel will judge and that’s when the true winner comes out. 

MUPH 2021 is over and I am happy to support the winner, Beatrice Luigi Gomez. I knew early on that she will win, even if Katrina was my sentimental favorite. I guess people were too busy rallying for other popular candidates but I did not lose sight of Bea, and now here she is. She has a good resume, an interesting story to tell, and good technical skills. I have a strong feeling that the MU org will pay attention to her. I look forward to seeing her journey to the MU stage. 

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